The biggest news for World in Conflict doesn't involve the E3 Business and Media Summit going on in Santa Monica right now. Instead, Sierra and developer Massive Entertainment released an open beta test for the game this week, allowing thousands of players to try out and test the multiplayer gameplay for this anticipated strategy game about World War III. So you don't need to be at E3 to check out World in Conflict for yourself.
What Sierra did show off was the upcoming DirectX 10 version of the game. World in Conflict will ship with support for DirectX 9 and DX10, and while the DX9 renderer looks incredible, Sierra and Massive tell us that the DX10 will offer a lot of subtle effects. For instance, soft particles mean that you'll actually see smoke that acts like smoke. Imagine a tank burning and sending a plume of smoke into the sky. In DX9, if a helicopter flies through the smoke it doesn't affect the plume. But in DX10, the smoke plume is scattered by the wash of the rotor blades.
Then there are volumetric shadows, which allow for realistic clouds and shadows. The shadows cast by clouds interact with the ground in a lifelike way. A corollary to volumetric shadows is volumetric light, which allows for what are called "god rays" as sunlight peers through the gaps in the clouds. It's an effect that you see in real life every now and then that catches your eye.
Perhaps the biggest reveal was when we watched the opening cinematic cutscene for the game, which explains how the Soviet Union invades the United States in this alternate history of the Cold War. The Red Army uses guile to invade Seattle in the opening moves of the invasion. While we knew that already, it's always nice to hear it explained by the soothing voice of Alec Baldwin. At least, it really sounded like Alec Baldwin. Sierra representatives just smiled and said that nothing of the sort has been announced yet, but considering that Sierra's parent company is the entertainment giant Vivendi Universal, it's safe to assume that Baldwin is on board.
That's about for World in Conflict. Like we said, if you're interested in the game, go ahead and get on the public beta and start having fun. World in Conflict ships in September for the PC and a later date for the Xbox 360.